The outside of Cafe USA is typical of strip mall fare, the inside full of memorabilia, a mature wry waitstaff, and more than decent breakfasts. It’s a place my father frequents when he doesn’t want to cook the first meal of the day himself.

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We had omelettes, grits, biscuits.

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Biscuits were good enough to order extras. Omelettes were good. I had a western omelette and my wife had a vegetarian omelette. At least as good were the staff, unpretentious and funny. Without our waitress our meal would have been a lot less memorable.

Cafe USA
3380 Barksdale Blvd
Bossier City, LA 71112
(318) 742-9600

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Bar-B-Q Shop is a spot we tried on the way home from Dallas, a recommendation of Marie Let’s Eat and notably, a favorite of the 3rd Degree Berns blog. It is an example of Memphis style barbecue, one that is less focused on smoke and more on sauce, really. Outside of the basics, like pulled pork and ribs, Memphis style has a dish called ‘bbq spaghetti’. We managed to try that as well in our trip here.

BBQ spaghetti.

BBQ spaghetti.

This style is not without its critics. Full Custom Gospel BBQ’s Daniel Vaughn, the barbecue critic for Texas Monthly these days, had very little good to say about the ‘cue here. Georgia BBQ Hunt tweeted that he’d not found a Memphis style eatery he was very impressed by. Both critics are heavily influenced by smoke-driven ‘cue, as really, am I. But some times other elements of the meal: ambiance, quality of service, commitment to a style, really count. This is one of those places.

On the way to Memphis we passed these untracked Bradley Fighting Vehicles being towed on trucks.

On the way to Memphis we passed these untracked Bradley Fighting Vehicles being towed on trucks.

Dry rub ribs and more

Dry rub ribs and more

Smoked turkey sandwich.

Smoked turkey sandwich.

Service here, we felt, was close to perfect. The people in the store were friendly, the care taken to our meal evident. The meats were pretty much as others have described, very light on smoke, very heavy on sauce. I felt the stock sauce was ordinary, but Bar-B-Q Shop’s spicy sauce was exceptionally good.

And though it doesn’t look like much, the bbq spaghetti was actually pretty good too.

To be fair, this excursion into the Memphis style isn’t going to stop me from looking for the smokiest meats around, but a meal or two at the Bar-B-Q Shop in Memphis isn’t going to hurt the hard core smoke hound. The quality spicy sauce, the tender meats, the care with which this restaurant treats customers goes a long way towards having a pleasant meal.

Bar-B-Q Shop
1782 Madison Ave
Memphis, TN 38104
(901) 272-1277

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Jang Su Jang is not a place to try during peak hours, because you’ll wait. Koreans know the place cold, are the bulk of the customers here, and keep coming back. I don’t blame them. The building is well and strongly built, with thick wooden frames that evoke an almost medieval sense of solidity. The tools used here, the stone bowls, plates for stone bowls, are again, solidly constructed, and show signs of heavy heavy use. People eat here, and they eat here a lot.

In the  beginning, water and  barley  tea.

In the beginning, water and barley tea.

Banchan? As fresh as their reputation.

Banchan? As fresh as their reputation.

Soon dubu, a rich and thick version of this dish. Bowls used lack the shine of new ones being sold at Super H, and  show signs of heavy use.

Soon dubu, a rich and thick version of this dish. Bowls used lack the shine of new ones being sold at Super H, and show signs of heavy use.

Bibimbap construction kit. Toss this over the rice (in a stone bowl, not shown).

Bibimbap construction kit. Toss this over the rice (in a stone bowl, not shown).

Other reviewers (e.g. Sean, of Take Thou Food and Chloe, of Chow Down Atlanta) have remarked that the mandoo is exceptional here, the soon dubu (silky tofu soup) is quite good, and the other dishes are okay. Sean noted the freshness of the banchan, a real sticking point for him. Bella Viviere, by contrast, felt Jang Su Jang was generally good, but pricey. I had soon dubu this day, as did my wife, and my daughter had the bibimbap. We enjoyed what we had, but we didn’t eat enough to really challenge any critical notions of this place. I will say that if you eat sanely, this place is not expensive. It when you try to delve into various specials for 2 or more that it can become more expensive.

When you arrive you will be served barley tea. It’s an acquired taste, served other places as well. More Americanized spots won’t bother. There is a button on the table, as in many Korean eateries, but this one is a little hard to see and not as obvious as in many places. You can ring the button to tell waitstaff to come to your table. Banchan should come out just before your meal arrives. At lunch, service was actually pretty fast, even though there were enough folks the day we showed that we had a couple minute wait before being seated.

Everything we had was good. I liked the food, but the atmosphere, even more. If you want to feel immersed in the character of a culture, this place can put you into that frame of mind. It doesn’t act like an American eatery, and isn’t trying to be. But it’s accommodating enough to those who grew up around pine trees, cotton, peaches, and red clay, playing backyard football till you have to swim to cut through the sweat, that you’ll enjoy the meal. And for those looking for the “authentic experience”, this certainly can provide.

Jang Su Jang
3645 Satellite Boulevard
Duluth, GA 30096
(678) 475-9170

Jang Su Jang on Urbanspoon

Romie’s surprised us, a fine little lunch spot that would be successful pretty much anywhere. Featuring a meal and 3 at lunch and enormous sandwiches, this spot is a perfect stop on the way to Alabama from Memphis, TN.

That’s what we were doing recently, returning from a trip to Dallas by way of the Shreveport area. Rather than heading south through Meridian and Tuscaloosa, we went a little north, through Memphis and then down to Birmingham. After a stop in Memphis, we reached Tupelo around lunchtime. Asking the folks at the local gas station where to eat for lunch, Romie’s was recommended.

Romie's catfish po-boy, marinated cukes and tomatoes.

Romie’s catfish po-boy, marinated cukes and tomatoes.

Grilled chicken on wheatberry bread with fried green tomatoes.

Grilled chicken on wheatberry bread with fried green tomatoes.

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I’d say the lunch was a hit at our table. Yes, if we travel this route, we’d be happy to stop here again.

Romie’s Grocery
804 W Jackson Street
Tupelo, MS 38804
(662) 842-8986

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I’m going on vacation soon so this is a teaser. Hopefully I can put up a couple more shorts over the next week or so. I easily have enough information for a few days of posting, just no time recently. Hopefully things will be smoother and less frantic after the trip is over.

Mings BBQ, well known for inexpensive pork and duck dishes, also has a few that will challenge folks. This is one of them.

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I found it to be a good dish. Not as good as the pork intestines at the not-so-famous Tasty China on Peachtree Industrial (the Shaighainese place, not Sichuan), but still worth a try. Crispy outside, and gelatinous and delicate inside. My waitress tried to warn me away from the dish. I personally think it’s worth a try if you have a risk tasking personality.

Blue Fin is the reincarnation of Sakana Ya, moved north along Peachtree Industrial from the Tilly Mill intersection to a location above Duluth Highway. It’s pretty enough inside to take a date, serves nice large bowls of food, has quite a few Japanese clientele.

This is more likely what you'll see when approaching Blue Fin.

This is more likely what you’ll see when approaching Blue Fin.

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I would describe the menu as smaller, but reasonably diverse. We came at lunch, so really have no feel for the dinner menu. There is a long sushi bar on one side, and a scattering of tables throughout the space. If I had to guess at capacity, it looks as if it could handle 50-75 diners. Although it’s not postage stamp tiny, it’s not a huge place.

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Outside of sushi, there were tempura and donburi offerings, ramen and noodles of various kinds, edamame, tonkatsu, the seaweed salad I ordered, as well as tuna tataki. Sushi selections were not limited to nigiri and rolls. They had a good looking chirashi zushi on the menu, and the salmon bowl, a second cousin to chirashi, was what my daughter ordered. The salmon roe in the dish looked quite appealing.

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The tuna tataki was a photo op on a plate. The dishes in Blue Fin present well, and are graceful on the table.

Tuna tataki.

Tuna tataki.

We enjoyed the eatery quite a bit. I didn’t see any signs of wildly overpriced food, given the serving sizes involved. Prices here are not cheap, but you get what you pay for. And at Blue Fin, what you get is a quality dining experience.

Blue Fin Sushi
2863 Peachtree Industrial Blvd
Duluth, GA 30097
(770) 232-5004

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Las Costas Nayaritas is unique. There is nothing like this restaurant in the city. It is an eatery focused almost purely on coastal Mexican seafood combinations. The closest to this theme was the old U.S.S. Vallarta, now long gone from Gwinnett Place Mall. There was a restaurant similar to this that I saw in Dallas, Big Shucks, but Big Shucks was largely oriented towards shrimp cocktails of various kinds, inexpensive beer, and futbol on large television screens.

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I showed up at this restaurant a day before their Grand Opening, at a time when their lunch menu was also their dinner menu, and so the lunch I had may not be the lunch offering you get. What I saw were a lot of staple seafood varieties and not a lot of exotica. There were things on the menu like crab, clams, oysters, shrimp, and octopus. Fish included tilapia, salmon, and perhaps a flatfish or two. There aren’t many exotic or rare items.

Tortillas are large, crisp, corn based and a little granular on the tongue. The tostada appetizer is better than anything I ever had at Lobster House.

Tortillas are large, crisp, corn based and a little granular on the tongue. The free tostada appetizer is better than anything I ever had at Lobster House.

The plates of food tend to be expensive, relative to prices you might see at a Red Lobster. But by way of compensation, the serving sizes are *enormous*. No other word for it, enormous. This is a place to feed a lot of people with a few plates of food.

Unless you eat Thai bird peppers for fun, be sparing of this hot sauce.

Unless you eat Thai bird peppers for fun, be sparing of this hot sauce.

What I ordered was the filete relleno, which Google tells me translates to ‘stuffed filet’. In fact this is a filet of tilapia over which a mixed bag of seafood and white cheese is poured. Again, the serving easily could have fed two and for the price, was actually a generous amount of food.

This photo doesn't really give the viewer any feel for how large this plate really is.

This photo doesn’t really give the viewer any feel for how large this plate really is.

I spent a lot of time fishing the interesting bits out of the white cheese and trying them out. The dish was delicious. The octopus ran a little chewy but it was sliced so thin that wasn’t an issue. In the mix were things like fish, shrimp, octopus, crab meat, sauteed mushrooms, and various vegetables.

The sheer novelty of the restaurant has me contemplating it still. I think what would work best for most folks is to go in groups, buy one or two plates and share. I don’t think it has small amounts of food for small eaters. Serving size tends to be enough for two normal eaters (or one Chloe Morris).

Update 9/8/2013: as Emily of Spatial Drift points out, the style of this cuisine is Nayarit. A nice introduction to Nayarit cuisine online can be found here.

Las Costas Nayaritas
1555 Pleasant Hill Road
Duluth, GA 30096
(678) 635-6000

Las Costas Nayaritas on Urbanspoon

If laid back and casual are what you want in a restaurant, you’ll love Oh! My Samgyupsal. If you like waitstaff that for the most part have flawless English, you’ll like Oh! My Samgyupsal. If you want good bbq in an atmosphere that doesn’t feel like an “after the karaoke” event, then this eatery may be good for you. All that said, if you’re a newbie to Korean BBQ, this also is a great place to start.

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If you’re wanting a fancy place to impress the relatives, this isn’t it. The tables and chairs are pretty ordinary and there is graffiti everywhere. I happen to like places with graffiti, it’s a very college thing to do, but it’s not for everyone. The drawings, however, show some artistic touches and it can be fun trying to recognize the folks they often parody.

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sprouts, kimchi, and some brisket getting "the treatment".

sprouts, kimchi, and some brisket getting “the treatment”.

I’d rate the food as good. The brisket isn’t as fine as the marinated brisket at Honey Pig but it is very thinly sliced and tastes very good if it’s well crisped. There are multiple kinds of pork belly, including the garlic pork belly that Bella Viviere likes. My family are hardly pork belly fans so we tend to eat brisket, wraps, “salad”, and cooked sprouts and kimchi.

If I haven’t suggested this so far, staff may be the best thing this restaurant has going for it. The English the staff use is mostly flawless. And therefore, if you’re one of the folks who has never had “all you can eat” BBQ in the city, this is one of the most English friendly spots you could start with.

In short, Oh! My Damgyupsal is a perfect spot for a beginner, a great spot for a casual crowd, a useful respite from the late night oriented eateries.

Oh! My Samgyupsal
3585 Peachtree Industrial Blvd
Duluth, GA 30096

Oh! My Samgyupsal on Urbanspoon

Miller Union is a farm-to-table restaurant, a product of a name chef (Steven Satterfield) and the boom in better eating at the  beginning of the teens of this century. Appearing roughly at the same  time as Bocado, it soon developed a group of dedicated  and worthy followers. Guys like Jimmy of Eat It Atlanta would make it a routine stop. And it’s always been on an invisible “wish list” of mine, one that wasn’t quelled a bit by the restaurant appearing on Tony Bourdain’s Atlanta show.

This was going to be my 500th review of an Atlanta restaurant. I wanted something appropriate.

I used a GPS to get here, but shouldn’t have bothered. The restaurant is on the left side of what amounts to a warehouse district, and the numbers “999” are distinct on the left as you approach. Parking is valet, cause there is none otherwise.  If you arrive early on a weekday, as we did, without a reservation, as we did, you’re likely to be seated outside. Thankfully, we had tolerable weather the day we arrived.

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Blueberry ginger soda, one of the home grown sodas at Miller Union.

The menu is small, selections are pretty straightforward. We ordered drinks, an heirloom tomato panzanella salad that we shared, an order of quail and an order of duck. The tomato salad was smallish when split in two, but went over well.

Half a tomato salad.

Half a tomato salad.

This is a pretty casual place, relatively slow paced. I think it was an hour and some minutes before we saw our entree. Staff are really good here. Excellent wouldn’t be an unfair evaluation. There is a lot of tag team waiting and multiple staff making sure everyone is comfy. But we were ready for food when it arrived.

Duck, nice and crusty. Squash was substituted for the regular corn.

Duck, nice and crusty. Squash was substituted for the regular corn.

Quail.

Quail.

I’d say we both enjoyed the meats. The duck was more solid than I’m used to, no layer of fat under crispy skin, but the crusty outside of the meat offered a pleasant contrast to the red interior. The quail was pleasing, but my partner would have been happier if the greens hadn’t been doused in balsamic-like dressing. The squash I had was excellent, grilled just enough to be tender.

Serving sizes were not large but big enough. No one felt stuffed afterwards, but felt we’d had enough food. The pace struck me, because I’ve been eating so many buffets recently. And after it all, felt it was actually worth the drive into town.

Miller Union is a spare graceful dining experience, not quite like any other I’ve had in town. It’s akin to the graceful relative who slips into town, shows you 3-4 hours of a great time, and then leaves, none the worse for wear. If you want food fast and enormous servings, this isn’t the spot for you. If you want to savor and relish the flavors you are exposed to, then this place will do you just fine.

Miller Union
999 Brady Ave NW
Atlanta, GA 30318
(678) 733-8550

Miller Union on Urbanspoon

The lunch buffet here is a syrupy mess, with beef, curries and chicken tikka. It’s inexpensive: a buffet and a soda cost less than 8 dollars. It can be, at times, hard to dig the meats out of the pools of broth, and access to one or another ingredient may be very dependent on whether the buffet is recently stocked.

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Beef nehari, beef karahi, and on the bottom of the photo, bagare baingan.

Still, it was good, with decent spice in some dishes. I especially liked the beef nehari. There was decent flavor in that dish. I wasn’t as pleased with the beef karahi, which seemed all bones to me. The bagare baingan was quite good, and at times, could really bring on the heat.

The mall Asma’s is located in is a halal hotbed, full of small places to eat. Further, in the mall, an Indian Chinese restaurant is going to arrive soon.

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I don’t recall convenient Indian Chinese since the one restaurant on Peachtree Industrial was around (back when Books Japan was on Peachtree Industrial, and in the same mall).

Asma’s Cuisine
3099 Breckinridge Blvd
Duluth, GA 30096
(678) 380-9548

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